Federal judge approves agreement between Cleveland, DOJ to reform policing

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — A federal judge has approved the agreement between the City of Cleveland and the Department of Justice to significantly reform how Cleveland police officers do their jobs.

Judge Solomon Oliver approved the so-called consent decree this morning.

The sweeping, 105-page agreement calls for new levels of transparency and oversight within the Cleveland Division of Police.
Mayor Frank Jackson called for the DOJ investigation shortly after a highly controversial police chase in November of 2012 left two unarmed people dead.

That investigation proceeded as more controversial cases unfolded. They included the shooting death of 12 year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by an officer who mistook his air soft pistol for a real gun.

And there was the case of Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman who died after being restrained by Cleveland police officers.

In December, the DOJ finished its lengthy investigation and issued a scathing report that found Cleveland police engage in a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force.

Negotiations ensued between the city and the DOJ that led to the agreement being reached just a few weeks ago. The two sides had reached another consent decree about a decade ago, but this one is different in large part because of the oversight role of Judge Oliver.

An independent monitor will be hired who will report to Judge Oliver on what reforms are taking place. Judge Oliver has the power to enforce the agreement by ordering changes if he finds that necessary.

The agreement calls for more training for officers in the use of force, better equipment (including computers) to help them do their jobs, and a tracking of who police stop and why by both gender and race.

The consent decree is modeled in part on the so-called “Collaborative Agreement” that was put in place over a decade ago in Cincinnati.

Last year, the FOX 8 I-Team did a series of stories showing how that agreement had reformed policing in Cincinnati. Police officers told us that the agreement makes them feel safer while doing their jobs.

A big challenge facing Cleveland is how to pay for an agreement that Mayor Frank Jackson says will cost millions. Jackson says the city cannot absorb the cost alone, and he will be looking for help from business and community leaders.

Cleveland may get some help because it should receive about $50 million in federal money to help with security for the 2016 GOP Convention.

When Tampa hosted that convention in 2012, that money was used in part to buy equipment that helped modernize the department.

Jackson has called reforming the police department correctly while working through controversial cases that have arisen a “defining moment” for his city.

Read a statement from Mayor Jackson’s office below:

CLEVELAND – I am pleased that Judge Solomon Oliver has accepted the City of Cleveland and Department of Justice Settlement Agreement. The acceptance of this agreement begins the road to reform that will ultimately result in a Division of Police the citizens of our city deserve.

I am committed to being transparent and providing regular updates throughout the process – not only to the court, as we are required to do – but, just as importantly, to the community.

Read the Department of Justice agreement with city of Cleveland here

Read more here.

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